New York State In-depth

Realize your dream: Southold Senior is accepted into one of the best dance schools in the country

Violet Rand, a Southold High School senior, has been dancing almost every day since she was 3 years old. In the fall, she will attend Oklahoma City University Dance School. (Photo courtesy)

There was never any doubt about Violet Rand’s talent. From the age of 3, Violet has perfected her technique in every dance style she could master. Now their hard work has paid off.

Last month, the 17-year-old was accepted into Oklahoma City University’s Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment. With one of the premier dance programs in North America, consistently sharing first place with Juilliard, Violet will have the opportunity to take her talent to new heights, whether in performance or any other aspect of the entertainment industry.

As a senior at Southold High School, Violet is always busy. In addition to schoolwork, she attends dance practice daily, both at the North Fork Academy of Dance in Greenport and at the Eglevsky Ballet in Bethpage. She teaches younger dance students, is the choreography captain for all of her high school’s musicals, and tours Long Island with her regional competitive dance team.

“Something magical happens when she’s on stage.”

Karissa Despres

“When I started high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in dance,” Violet said in a recent interview. “I work hard to get most of my homework done at school, during class, and on my lunch break so all I have to do after school is dance.”

Karissa Despres, owner and artistic director of North Fork Dance Academy, has seen Violet’s skills as a performer blossom over the past 14 years. Ms. Despres knew since Violet was 8 that her showmanship was on a different level and coupled with her dedicated work ethic, she also knew that Violet would go very far in her dance career.

“Violet always had performance in her blood,” said Ms. Despres. “Something magical happens when she’s on stage. Violet could pull off the simplest move, but her techniques will keep you mesmerized.”

It was Ms. Despres’ guidance that introduced Violet to the Oklahoma-based dance school. She found out that a summer program Violet had previously attended, Steps on Broadway in Manhattan, was offering virtual meetups for several college-level dance programs across the country, and passed it on to Violet’s mother, Heather Rand. From there, Violet fell in love with the many opportunities Oklahoma City University offered.

According to its website, the Ann Lacy School offers bachelor’s degrees in four areas of dance and arts management: performing arts in dance performance, dance management, American dance pedagogy, and entertainment business.

Violet Rand performing at the Starquest Dance Competition in January 2020. (Photo courtesy)

“As a freshman, I will be starting out as a Universal Dance Major, which means I will be able to experience all aspects that the program offers,” Violet said. “I chose this school because I am exposed to everything I can do in the dance world. I will learn how to teach courses and direct dance studios and stage performances. Of course I will continue to improve my performance and technique. And that’s my favorite part about dancing; there is always room for improvement. I will never stop learning.”

Violet’s superior work ethic seems to run in the family. Her parents, both teachers from Suffolk County, always had an artistic bent and encouraged their daughters to pursue their passions. Violet’s sister Juliet, now a sophomore at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, is training to be a professional opera singer.

“Talent is a big part of the industry, but being a leader and a team player, accepting and applying corrections is more important than being a superstar,” said Ms. Despres. “Violet has such a strong work ethic and it’s because of her parents. Art runs through her veins.”

Violet embarks on her journey to Oklahoma City in August. She is excited and grateful for the people who have supported her on her journey as a dancer so far.

“All my teachers are so knowledgeable,” Violet said. “They inspire me to keep learning and evolving. I am so thankful to have so many people who always support me.”

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